The dual-mission of the Smith Lab for Gene and Cell Engineering is (1) to design and evaluate in the lab novel approaches to advance the field of adoptive cellular therapy, and (2) to rapidly translate these therapies from our lab to treat patients with the greatest need.
Our lab team is focused on advancing the field of adoptive cellular immunotherapy, and rapidly translating new treatments for patients with otherwise limited options. Having trained at Memorial Sloan Kettering at a time when the first CD19 targeted CAR T cell therapy trial for adults with relapsed/refractory B cell ALL was ongoing, Dr. Smith was inspired to develop novel CAR T cell vectors that would extend this therapeutic modality beyond those with CD19+ malignancies. His early work identified targets and developed novel CAR designs to treat Multiple Myeloma. Trials investigating vectors stemming from this work and the work of many others demonstrate that CAR T cell therapy can induce frequent and deep remissions for patients with relapsed/refractory hematologic malignancies, however, relapse is still far to common.
Dr. Smith’s lab studies current challenges in the gene and cell therapy field including mechanisms of relapse and extending therapies to new indications such as solid tumors. With advancing technologies in gene and cell therapies Dr. Smith’s lab not only designs new virally encoded CARs but also engineers new therapies using CRISPR and mRNA as backbones.
In an effort to overcome the limitations of current adoptive cellular therapies, we study murine models and patient samples to better understand the biology of T cells, tumor cells, and the microenvironment underlying these resistance mechanisms. Jumping off from these results and the works of others, our main focus is to design and evaluate novel genetically modified immune effector cell therapy and mRNA approaches. Capitalizing on our prior experience, we rapidly translate the most promising for clinical investigation.